Book Review of
Gone To the Woods
His name is synonymous with high-stakes wilderness survival stories. Now, beloved author Gary Paulsen portrays a series of life-altering moments from his turbulent childhood as his own original survival story. If not for his summer escape from a shockingly neglectful Chicago upbringing to a North Woods homestead at age five, there never would have been a Hatchet. Without the encouragement of the librarian who handed him his first book at age thirteen, he may never have become a reader. And without his desperate teenage enlistment in the Army, he would not have discovered his true calling as a storyteller.
An entrancing account of grit and growing up, perfect for newcomers and lifelong fans alike, this is the famed author at his rawest and most real.
Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen is the book that made me break my backlist book challenge. It is the first book I have read in 2021 that was published in 2021. So far I have done a great job of avoiding new shiny books published in 2021, but I made an exception for this one.
My son and I spent 29 hours together in the car on a road trip to visit my family. It was just him and I as we drove from eastern Oklahoma to the far northwest corner of Oregon. An audiobook or two was necessary. However, I wanted to find audiobooks that we would both be interested in and that would keep our attention. I also wanted books that would make for some good conversations between us. My son loved Gary Paulsen’s books when he was a kid. Hatchet was his favorite.
I bought him a hardcover copy of Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen when it came out back in January, but right now college classes like Calculus 3, Physics 2, Chemistry, and all his other engineering classes have taken priority over reading. I knew he would not get around to reading it anytime soon.
I have not read any of Gary Paulsen’s books, but I love memoirs, so it seemed like a good fit for an audiobook for us to listen to on our trip.
It ended up being a great fit. We both really enjoyed the book. We both thought that the narrator did a good job.
Gone to the Woods is Gary Paulsen’s autobiography. He lived a difficult life and he shares it in an honest way. This book takes you on all kinds of adventures starting with life on his aunt and uncle’s farm to living overseas in the Philippines after WWII. It covers his difficult adolescent years and how a library and librarian helped change his life.
If you have read Gary Paulsen’s books, I think you will enjoy hearing about his life and how it inspired his books. My son and I both felt it ended a bit abruptly. We would have loved to have more details about his teen and adult years, but overall, it was a great memoir.
I will say that this book is marketed for reading ages 8 – 12. I think that audience is a bit young for this book. Gary Paulsen goes into pretty extensive detail about things he saw in the Philippines and things that he dealt with in his family and life basically living on the streets.
It might depend on the reader, but I think this is more for teens and adults. I would not have wanted my 11-year-old kid to read this unless I was reading it with him. Even then I think it was a bit rough for a kid to read.
However, my son and I had some great conversations about someone who might enjoy this book at that age. That would be a kid that has had a very rough life. Someone who is living or who has survived things like Gary Paulsen did would totally understand this book. In fact, it would probably make them feel less alone knowing that someone understood. My guess is though that the kid who would need to read this book is not the kid who will actually read it. If you choose to let your kid read this book, I recommend reading it first.